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Klumpke’s Palsy

Unless you are a parent with a child who has been diagnosed with this condition, you may never have even heard of Klumpke’s Palsy. Also known as Klumpke’s paralysis, it is listed as a rare illness that affects fewer than 200,000 people in the United States.

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What is Klumpke’s Palsy?

In simple terms, it is an injury to the brachial plexus. These are nerves that branch out from the spinal column along the neck that provides sensations and movement to the hand, arm, and shoulder. There are four cervical nerves and one thoracic nerve, which are called C5, C6, C7, C8, and T1. C8 and T1 form a trunk which is divided into two sections. One section provides information to the extensor muscles, and the other section goes to the flexor muscles.

The condition occurs when the C8 and T1 nerves are damaged. The person is not able to have normal movement or feeling in their hand or arm. They may experience numbness, weakness, and loss of mobility.

How It Occurs

Elk & Elk

While Klumpke’s Palsy may occur in a variety of situations, including car accidents and sports injuries, it is most often seen in the delivery of a newborn baby. The child’s brachial plexus is damaged during the delivery process. It may happen due to a breech birth, prolonged labor period or when the baby’s shoulder is restricted before birth. It can also occur if a doctor must assist with delivery and the baby’s arm is stretched out.

One of the most common scenarios is when the mother is small, and she is having a baby with a large birth weight. The difficult labor increases the risk of the child developing this disease during delivery.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The doctor may diagnose the condition through digital image testing and through observation of various symptoms, including loss of feeling and inability to move with a normal range of motion. Treatment often depends on the severity of the condition. In many cases, it begins with gentle range of motion exercises that the doctor will instruct the parents to do at home.

Progress is monitored through regular visits with the doctor. If the baby requires further treatment, physical therapy may be prescribed. In the most serious cases, surgery may be necessary to help new nerves to form and old scar tissue to be removed. In these situations, recovery may take months or even years. It is also possible that this condition is permanent.

The doctor will determine which of the four types of damage has occurred. Tearing of the nerves may result in avulsion or rupture while neuroma indicates the presence of scar tissue. With neurapraxia, the nerve has been damaged and stretched, but it is not torn.


Prognosis is good for many babies inflicted with the disease. The majority of them recover full use of their motor function and feeling with nothing more than the gentle exercises. For the others, they usually respond well to treatment. In the most severe cases, the child can learn to adapt to any loss of movement or lack of sensation and enjoy most normal daily activities. They may experience some limitations in mobility and feeling that will make the disease a lifelong condition.